Friends influence each other’s weight

WASHINGTON – It’s tough dieting and trying to lose weight. And research shows that close friends might not be helping the cause.

Of the people who responded to a global Edelman Health Barometer survey, 43 percent said friends and family have the most impact on their personal health lifestyle, while 36 percent said those friends and family have the most impact on personal nutrition, Psychology Today reports.

The 12-country, 15,000-person survey also finds that 44 percent of people do not spend less time with a friend because that friend has an unhealthy behavior. Thirty-one percent do avoid those friends.

The 2011 Edelman survey isn’t the only indication that friends have a lot of influence on nutrition.

The Framingham Heart Study, published in 2007, followed 12,000 people over 32 years. It found a person’s chances of become obese increase by 57 percent if a friend becomes obese. The probability of obesity increases by 71 percent if that friend is the same sex.

The study also found that distance was not a factor. It doesn’t matter if a person’s friend lives next door or across the country.

Women’s friendships influenced their risk of becoming obese by 38 percent. But for all-male friendships, the result was a 100 percent chance of becoming obese.

Psychology Today also says social norms are in part to blame. Peer pressure plays a role in healthy behaviors and body size.

Also, the desire to mimic (yes, monkey see, monkey do) is thought to enhance bonding between friends.

Dieters, you may want to find BFFs who also are shedding pounds, if you really want to lose weight.

WTOP’s David Burd contributed to this story. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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